How to Get Your Marijuana Business License (And Keep It)
By: Michael Star, CSPM. CHS-II
Hey, let’s start a legal marijuana business!
As the saying goes – EASIER SAID THAN DONE. If you are in the business, or currently applying for a license, you know this well. License applications are complicated and confusing. Code requirements, are constantly changing. Wording is ambiguous. What the heck is a 4 CIF camera resolution? In Florida, Dispensary licenses are 2600 pages long!
But one thing that all license applications have in common, no matter what State you are in – they all require a Comprehensive Security Plan. Some States have very detailed requirements, other States, not so clear and are open to interpretation by the local authority having jurisdiction. All security plans include written policies, secure storage, restricted access and electronic surveillance and security systems.
So, how do you figure out what you need to get licensed and stay licensed? Do you buy them minimum security equipment required to meet the code requirements? "I'm pretty handy, I can go to Costco and buy 8 cameras and a recorder for under $1,000. Whats wrong with doing that"? Well, what happens when the state regulatory codes change? What happens when your business grows? Will your security systems and plans grow with your business?
Go beyond what is required by code. Code does not protect you, it protects government. Consider it a surveillance system you pay for so government can keep an eye on you. When things go wrong, they will want to look at the video to see where you screwed up. The code is not written to protect you or your business from criminal activity, from liability, from loss of profit or reputation. This is why you must design beyond what is required by code. Your design also needs to take into consideration the crime and threats to your industry in the area you will be, or are located. It has to take into consideration your vulnerability to burglary or robbery. What can you do to deter, delay, detect, eliminate or mitigate the threats? A good Security Consultant can assist you with this using site security surveys, security audits and risk analysis.
Change is constant
Your business will change, hopefully it will grow. Laws and regulations will change. Crime and the threat to your business will change. Employees and vendors will come and go. Get it right the first time and invests in security and safety systems that can grow with you. Selecting systems that are “scalable” is important for keeping up with the changes. Why buy a CCTV surveillance system that will handle only 12 cameras? A year from now when the code changes requiring more cameras, or you double the size of your facility, do you tear it all out and install a new one that can handle 24 cameras? Do it right the first time.
There is a lot to consider
How do you make the right choice? Field of View, optimal camera locations, backlighting adjustments, minimal LUX, images per second, recording resolution, video storage, video retention time, watermarking, types of high security door locks, hinges, exit devices, card reader formatting, biometric options, alarms sensor types, etc...
Ask a local alarm installer to figure it out?
Have the security guard company install something?
Let me explain. Alarm dealers and integrators represent, or are “certified” by certain manufacturers and brands. Some brands can be purchased by installer without any training or certification. That is the brand or model that they are going to recommend. It’s the one they get the biggest discount on. It’s the one that their installers are most familiar with installing. This is not necessarily the best brand or models to meet your needs; they meet the installer’s need for high profit margins.
Your guard company falls under the same category. They may say they provide electronic security systems, but they most likely "farm" the work out to a friend. Also, keep in mind that they will be hesitant to make any recommendations that would remove a guard post. It can easily cost you about $250,000 annually for one 24/7/360 guard post. Why would they want to give that money back to you by recommending options other than a security guard?
Additionally, not all security and safety problems can be solved by technology or guards. Low tech needs to be considered first. Selecting the proper facility, doors, locks, vaults, glass, lighting, fencing, staff and customer parking, shipping & receiving points, entry & exit points, reception area design, all can impact your need for electronics or guards. Your #1 threat to profits is internal theft. Having proper policies, procedures and training in place is an important part of mitigating these risks
Let’s open the doors and start making money!
So, now you have your business license, how do you keep it? The leading causes of fines and license suspensions are allowing persons under 21 into the facility/access to product, and inadequate security. As your business grows, you can expect that code compliance requirements will also change. Your security systems and policies must keep in lockstep with your growth and code changes. Nine times out of ten, this is why marijuana businesses get fined or have their license suspended. The average suspension is 10 days. That is a lot of hassle and lost revenue, and now you are on the authorities target list.
The good news is, you can avoid this by doing regular security audits
It is recommended that you perform audits at least annually, sooner if there are major changes to your business model, regulatory requirements or crime trends. Audits should be conducted by third party, unaffiliated firms. This is important to prevent bias in audit findings of vendor services. Vendor performance can be evaluated by developing Key Performance Indicators (KPI). KPIs should be developed with the assistance of your vendors to set agreed upon, achievable benchmarks for measuring performance, and encouraging continued improvement. Guard companies can be measured by response time to alarms, knowledge of post orders, detection and reporting of potential security risks.
Advancements in Technology
The security technology industry is constantly evolving and ever changing. New technologies are making security better, faster and smaller. As the cannabis industry matures, new security solutions will be developed specific to your industry needs. Security consultants monitor new technology developments, and audits help them look into whether there is a more efficient, cost effective way of securing your business.
Start with a solid security plan that not only meets regulatory requirements, but exceeds it to cover your operational needs, protects your employees, customers, vendors, profit and reputation. Follow it up regularly with detailed security audits and adjustments to coverage, policies and procedures as needed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael Star is a former law enforcement officer who has spent the last 20 years designing security solutions for government and private organizations globally. Michael utilizes risk assessments, crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), ergonomics and behavioral psychology as tools to develop solutions around how companies do business.
420 Security Advisors was established to help you navigate your way through the jungle of security systems choices and regulatory requirements. We understand security and the legal cannabis industry. We work for you, with your best interests in mind. As your security advisor, we can develop solutions around how you do business, and help you stay in business. We offer free telephone consultations.